Is it Time for Your Alaka‘i Abundance?

We’ve lived together in a recessionary economy long enough now for it to have some effect on all of us; that’s a given.

If we put that aggravation aside, and allow whatever difficulty we may be experiencing to just be (for it is what it is) we can move on to the next effect on our lives. We can make it one that we purposely will affect, being mover and shaker this time, and vowing never to be an unwitting victim again.

I recently came across this quote, transcribed in an interview that Bono, lead singer of U2, had done with Rolling Stone some time ago:

“I used to think that one day I’d be able to resolve the different drives I have in different directions, the tensions between the different people that I am. Now I realize that is who I am. I do feel I’m getting closer to the song in my head. I wasn’t looking for grace. But luckily grace was looking for me.”

We can be like Bono

Here is a gift of this recession: Like Bono, you are “able to resolve the different drives [you] have in different directions” too.

You may not be feeling the tension he felt, and you may not feel you are torn between being “different people” in one stretched skin, however you can go for the same release, and the same grace. Instead of a release, you can think of it as a new filling up of your capacity to be more.

Not only can you do this, it is the new expectation of business today. Exciting stuff.

Our potential abundance is Palena ‘ole

Palena ‘ole means ‘without boundaries.’ It is an amazement I have about this time we are living in. As I shared on Talking Story:

I grew up in a generation anticipating that like our parents we would devote our lives to a single career, and that is not at all the case today. It still amazes me that I myself became an example, going from manager (of a couple different incarnations and stripes) to published author and workplace culture coach, and you can bet I’m dreaming up my next career leap (and hoping it includes independent wealth, but you know what? Not a requirement.)

In our Managing with Aloha workshops, we teach palena ‘ole as the manager’s exponential growth stage. It is about seeing bigger and better leadership dreams come to fruition. We urge managers to think “Legacy” and we help them come up with a plan to create abundance by honoring a four-fold capacity; physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual.

Your abundance may no longer be discretionary

“Exponential growth stage.” Used to be this workshop talk about possibility and potential was thought of as extra. It was considered going above and beyond; the next grand adventure of the overly ambitious and optimistically courageous.

Well, what used to be discretionary may be our new normal; a requirement in the survival of the fittest.

I don’t think the Alaka‘i leader has much of a choice today. My prediction is that this resolution of “different drives [we] have in different directions” is what will separate the winners from the losers. It is a combination of diversification and reinvention. Will you go there willingly — with grace, or will you keep kicking and screaming against it? If so, you deny your own capacity, however you also may be denying the best opportunity you have ever had.

Is it time for your Alaka‘i Abundance? (There’s a ring to that I really like!)

I say, Oh yes, it’s time. It always was. Only question is if you’ll be like Bono, willing to say, “Now I realize this is who I am willing to be.”

For here’s the rub:
If you don’t take the leap to be more than whatever you have been, you aren’t leading today, and you won’t be in the future.

Blue Streak

Even our island sky will teach us, “I am more than just blue.”
Aouli: The skies and “blue vault of heaven” (Pukui-Elbert)

Let’s talk story; I’d love to hear from you.

My mana‘o [The Backstory of this posting]
Each Tuesday I write a leadership posting for Say “Alaka‘i” at The Honolulu Advertiser. The edition here on Talking Story is revised with internally directed links, and I can take a few more editorial liberties. One person — I prefer using the word managers — will do both things; manage and lead: Leadership is Why and When, and Management is What and How. We explore the management side of the coin each Thursday. You might ask, “What’s in it for me?” Very good! For I think of that as A Great Self-Leadership Question.

The Talking Story (occasional) Sunday Paper

An issue for September, 2009
Some commentary on recent reads I felt compelled to pull from my learning links Tumblr, Ho‘ohana Aloha, just in case you missed them, or because I keep thinking about them: Perhaps they will resonate with you too, and we can talk story.

So let’s catch up on this September Sunday, shall we? These are the sub-headings which follow:

The Customer is NOT Always Right, and Ho‘okipa
Learning from Leaders: 9 Pen Portraits and Strengths Management
9 Fantasy Careers and Ho‘ohana
More from Ho‘ohana Aloha — What does it offer you?
Add your Mana‘o: We talk story

Still wanted in print

The Customer is NOT Always Right

I have newly updated this posting, originally written for Talking Story back in July of 2005:
The Customer is NOT always right.

My trigger was an article written this past week by Seth Godin called, Win the fight, lose the customer. He writes,

smart marketers understand that the word ‘right’ in “The customer is always right” doesn’t mean that they’d win in court or a debate. It means, “If you want the customer to remain a customer, you need to permit him to believe he’s right.” If someone thinks they’re unhappy, then you know what? They are.

Our post titles may seem to be at odds, but Seth and I agree. Agreed back then, and still do: I updated some old links in my article, but did not change much else. This is an issue about having empathy for the customer, and not one about being right or wrong. Where Seth refers to smart marketers, I talk about us being good people. Have a look, and add this one to your value files on Ho‘okipa [hospitality], Ho‘ohanohano [dignity], and Ha‘aha‘a [humility]:
The Customer is NOT always right.

Learn to write Pen Portraits

Absolutely loved this posting that Work/Life Fusion career coach Paul Diamond wrote for us at Joyful Jubilant Learning this week: Learning from Leaders: 9 Pen Portraits

Below you will find 9 very brief pen portraits of managers past and present. Each one recalls a character ”“ some I met directly, others I encountered via story alone ”“ and tries to answer questions like: Who was this person? What were they memorable for? What did others learn from their leadership? Have a look and see what you think…

Most of the pen portraits which follow are about 50 to 70 words long at the very most, and Paul’s descriptions are marvelous:

Stuart was a law unto himself. A prince among men who ran his offices like a royal court. His word was law but it was also thoughtful and considerate. He showed the best face of old paternalism to some of his subjects. No one who experienced Stuart’s largesse could ever forget it.

As I commented there for Paul, I can imagine so many coaching applications for this method. Two examples would be, a) helping managers appreciate their peers in looking for complementary partnerships, and b) helping managers identify strengths within their staff in terms of activities and results instead of using conventional labels.

Paul inspired me to write an imaginary one for Ally, further developing her character introduced in my #fridayflash fiction series:

Ally was femininity personified, carrying herself with elegance and poise, and speaking with calm and grace. When she walked into a room you noticed her immediately, and when she started to speak you were drawn to her, feeling you were gratefully pulled in by some invisible magnetic force. She was known for choosing her alliances carefully, seeming to live up to her name, and to be known as one on her team was to brandish your own reputation for quality and success.

However how much better would it be, to write a pen portrait about a real person, someone you seek to appreciate for the strengths and spirit they add to your workplace?

I strongly urge you to read Paul’s posting and the comments which follow there: Learning from Leaders: 9 Pen Portraits. These are positive profiles of strengths or compelling behavior predicators: Think about how you could use this writing exercise, adding the tool to your file on MWA Key 7: Strengths Management.

Turn your thoughts into positive action right now: Write a pen portrait about one of your stars here in my comments (or over at JJL for Paul) and then send them the link to let them know how much you appreciate and admire them.

9 Fantasy Careers and Ho‘ohana

The effervescent Karen Swim of Words For Hire gave us another winning post at Joyful Jubilant Learning this week which recalled the fantasy careers of her youth. From her introduction:

As children we all indulged in a bit of   fantasizing about careers. It was our way of exploring and trying on the idea of professions   until we found one that fit. I certainly had my fair share of career dreams that ranged from the wild to the wacky. […] The great thing about being a writer is that I can indulge myself   in multiple careers while my feet are firmly planted doing what I love.
Nine Fantasy Careers.

Wonder Woman 02 on Flickr by bbaltimore
Wonder Woman 02 on Flickr by bbaltimore

Her fantasies (yep, the photo is a clue!) are a fabulous way to explore one’s Ho‘ohana [intentions within worthwhile work], easier than (and different from) the pen portraits: Our values emerge in this happy blending of dreaming and playfulness, and when we list some practical answers it begs the question, “Well, why not do it now?”

I grew up in a generation anticipating that like our parents we would devote our lives to a single career, and that is not at all the case today. It still amazes me that I myself became an example, going from manager (of a couple different incarnations and stripes) to published author and workplace culture coach, and you can bet I’m dreaming up my next one (and hoping it includes independent wealth, but you know what? Not a requirement.)

Read Karen’s post, and the exuberance and imagination of the comments there will not be lost on you. Add this one to your value file on ‘Imi ola ”“ living your best possible life, and creating your own destiny. “No way, can’t do that!” isn’t an iron-clad truth, but it can be a self-fulfilling prophecy IF you allow it to be.

Ask yourself if you are dreaming enough, and if you are willing to reinvent yourself: Think about the unlimited capacity of MWA Key 9: Palena ‘ole. Challenge those you care about to dream more and explore their career fantasies too.

If you are wondering more about Karen’s story, there was some great serendipity in the timing of her Nine Fantasy Careers for JJL and a two part interview that Rick Cecil did with her on Ruzuku: Karen Swim from there to here: Another Step Forward.

More from Ho‘ohana Aloha

The link for Ho‘ohana Aloha can always be found at the base of the Talking Story banner up top with the primary blog navigation: It is noted as Tumblr, the name of the web-based software it runs on. I mostly use it for link-sharing, (and for the Ho‘ohana Publishing aggregation I had talked about here: 10 Publishing Lessons for Summertime 2009), however Ho‘ohana Aloha also will offer short Text postings, Photos, Quotations, Video Clips, and the occasional Audio file.

My purpose is a kind of bookmarking: I use Tumblr as a treasure box that I continually add to as I do web-reading. For instance, I use it quite a lot as I follow the links others share on Twitter, and I decide that my first read of that link discovery will not be enough — I’m sure I’ll want to return to it for some reason, investing more fully in the learning opportunity it offers me. Thus for me, the Tumblr saves learning links in a type of digital library, albeit in somewhat random form — my time of discovery.

I would love to do posts like this one about the highlights there each week, but it simply isn’t possible, so I encourage you to take a look on your own occasionally. Here are five other titles you will find there at the time of this writing:

  • Branding: The Future of Publishing? on the Vroman’s Bookstore blog
  • Showing vs. Telling from Nathan Bransford
  • Lessons Learned from Peter Drucker from J.D.Meir at Sources of Insight
  • Feeling the Community from Chris Brogan
  • How Much Does Talent Really Matter? by Chris Bailey

Why not click over right now?

You might also want to consider getting your own Tumblr! It is free, and very easy to use, and there is a follow feature there by which you can connect to other Tumblrs and see their newest updates scroll by on your dashboard (you can include Ho‘ohana Aloha. Good idea to follow the Tumblr Staff Blog for their tips as they beta test new features). If you have a Tumblr, let me know in the comments so I can follow you too!

Add your Mana‘o: We talk story

Ho‘ohana CommunityAnd as always, the comment boxes here at Talking Story are intended for you to easily share your mana‘o with others in our Ho‘ohana Community. Consider yourself a contributor to our Talking Story (occasional) Sunday Paper, and drop in a link today: What learning did you come across on the web lately, and why did it appeal to you?

Let’s talk story, for we Ho‘ohana kākou, together,
— Rosa

The Garage Sale #FridayFlash

“We’re open for business.”

That was the first thought to pop into Jacob Silvers’ mind when Andrew introduced Ally to their merry little band of wannabe renegades. There was something very familiar about Ally even though he’d never seen her before, but that ‘open for business’ thought was much stronger. It dismissed the familiarity, glossing it over with a curiosity which quickly intensified, felt sharp.

Ally had said the strangest thing to him when Andrew introduced them. “Jacob. Such an old name for a man still young.” Jacob sensed this was the beginning of a brand new day.

And Lord knows they needed one.

Jacob knew he should be content, for he enjoyed his work, was paid well, and had a great deal of freedom and mobility. He worked with a good team, all smart and industry savvy, but not taking themselves so seriously that fun got left out of the mix. They consistently churned out one bestseller after another, and small as they were, Writers & Readers Edge Press enjoyed a fantastic reputation in the publishing world. Their authors loved them, and distributors counted on them to live up to their name, finding those edgy works buyers gobbled up with an insatiable appetite and open wallet.

Rewarding work to be sure, so what was his trouble in this publishing paradise? Pretty simple, very frustrating: Jacob was bored, and his boredom made him restless and more than a little confused. He’d often wished one of the authors he repped would write this story out for him, giving it a plot which made sense. Aren’t you supposed to be happy when you love your work and just about everything which goes with it? What was that saying? “Do what you love and you’ll never work another day in your life.” So what was missing?

When Ally walked in that day, taking the reins from Andrew with a subtle but sure finality, Jacob instantly knew what that missing element had been. As empty a cliché as he felt the word had become, he couldn’t think of a better one: Leadership. There was no mistaking Ally’s readiness in the way she carried herself, and in how those eyes took everything into account in silent inventory. That fire of eager leadership had been missing for a while now, and maybe this time it need not come from within him.

“We’re open for business.”

Jacob had said those words seven years before Ally joined W&RE Press. It was 7am on a Saturday morning in late May, and he’d said it as he moved aside the orange traffic cones in their driveway to let people in. He was surprised by the crowd quietly waiting, many with children in tow. His wife had done a terrific job passing out her artsy pastel flyers, that’s for sure. She’d written her heart, and they ended up in the hands of the right buyers:

Garage Sale on Dillingham Avenue, 7am Saturday.
Mostly books for the young and the never old.
We’re Voracious Readers, and need to make room on our bookshelves for more.
Wonderful children’s selection. Selling cookbooks, our art and craft magazines.
There will be other household and family-loved things.
Goods you normally find at a garage sale when the kids grow up, leave home.
Mom can stop working! (long-time party planner, selling those wares too)
Hope to see you fellow readers; we’ll brew coffee.

As promised, they had an amazing number of books to sell, but there was much more, accumulated through years living in the same neighborhood raising an active family. His wife charmed as a seller that morning, and Jacob was instantly put to work as the banker. Head down, he pecked at his calculator buttons to be sure of each purchase total, bagged up their old life in recycled grocery sacks, and doled out change non-stop for at least the first two hours of the morning. When he finally got a breather and looked up, Jacob was amazed at what he saw.

Part of their wares included a few dozen straw mats left over from a beach party his wife had done, and they were now spread out on his front lawn, under the shade of their huge avocado tree. Mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers in assorted family combination were sitting and quietly reading, having dragged their sale boxes of books out with them like some literary bonfire crackling warm in their midst. They flipped through short stacks of books on each mat and sipped their coffee, trading with each other, enjoying the morning and in no rush to decide which they’d buy. And they did buy. They even bought the books they’d already read. They were buying their morning reading under that avocado tree, taking it home with them.

Jacob had looked at his wife, smiled and said, “Whoa, we’re open for business alright.”

A woman trying to choose between some paper lanterns caught their attention as she shushed her little boy, saying, “I’m trying to hurry Matthew, please give mommy just a few more minutes.” Matthew was about four and he’d already chosen three books, held close to his chest. “Hey sport, how ‘bout I read one of those books to you until your mom is done?” Jacob asked him.

After getting “It’s okay, go ahead” from his grateful mom, Jacob and Matthew grabbed another mat and joined the crowd on the lawn. By the time Jacob had finished reading Where the Wild Things Are, something was stirring, something big. It had to do with Matthew and the other readers, with the books, and with the reading so irresistible that morning. Jacob didn’t know what it was; he only knew he wasn’t as ready as his wife was to retire. Not yet.

Within a year, Jacob was throwing open the doors of a book launch with his new boss Andrew Edgewater, and a very excited first-time author. “Another author open for business.” Andrew had said. “You ready?”

Trailer of the movie to be released next month!

My mana‘o [The Backstory of this posting]
About the #FridayFlash fiction community. This is the 4th time I am participating, with fictional stories that do reflect some of the struggles we have in our workplaces today.   My first 3 stories: The Vision, and The Manager (Learn more about Ally in that one) and last week, The Truth Will Set You Free.

Several different thoughts collided in this one for me.
1. Continual business reinvention is a must, and personally I feel the publishing industry is a potent example and might be fun to explore. Giving this company a name might get me to work in more story versus non-stop character development, fun as it is!
2. Seemingly happy, successful people like Jacob can get so neglected in the workplace. Managers’ attentions get diverted as “the squeaky wheel gets the grease” and their stars are not kept happy. They are not challenged.
3. Like Jacob, many of us are not quite sure what we want; we just know we want different. Leadership may still be a buzz word, but that doesn’t mean we want it any less.
4. I feel I need to address The Vision again in a future installment, and this was a stretching/playing until it comes to me. Jacob had a very strong vision at one time, and it came from the most unlikely place. We still don’t know about the outcome of his promotion battle with Camille —does he even want it?
5. And last, we just had a garage sale this past weekend for a similar clutter busting, though I would never sell my books!

Any workplace familiarity in this one for you?

If you are a #FridayFlash writer, how would you have edited this to make it shorter?

It’s Okay Not to Know

We have an affliction running rampant in the workplace.
It is a misfortune called MKIA: Must Know It All.

MKIA is an assumption we burden others with; a symptom of our own self-righteous indignation. Once someone is in a position of any authority or expertise, we assume they are supposed to know absolutely everything there is to know ”“ everything and anything that could possibly be associated with their position.

Expert by Pete Prodoehl on Flickr

When we stop to think about it, MKIA is really absurd. Yet we lay this unfair and unreasonable expectation on others constantly. Why?

“Well, he works there for crying out loud, he should have known.”

“She’s the boss; she should know: Why should I be the one to tell her?”

“Isn’t it his job to know these things, or at least know how to find out?”

“Why is she the one in charge if she can’t even answer my questions?”

“Why is this taking so long, you’d think they’d know what they’re doing by now!”

Let’s think about this a bit more.

Do we expect people to have fully arrived once they land a job? Do we really expect everyone to be an expert, completely qualified and experienced, and not needing to learn a single thing more? Of course not.

In fact, don’t you get even more upset when someone says they know something and they intentionally misrepresent themselves or try to fake it?

It’s okay not to know everything.

However it’s not okay to stop there. We’re expected to do something about our not knowing when it becomes important that we learn, and find out.

“I don’t know” is a Beginning, not an Ending

Managers, this is where you can make such a profound difference in both the workplace atmosphere and in the customer service you offer. Banish the MKIA affliction once and for all.

Here are 5 tips to start with. I don’t know, there may be more ways ”“ I’m still learning too ”“ but I do know these represent a great beginning!

1. Make it crystal clear that it’s okay not to know everything. Make ‘not knowing’ safe and be sure it is never embarrassing. Thank people for admitting to what they don’t know, explaining why it is the information YOU need to know so you can help, and get things to improve.

2. Model your own vulnerability in being able to say, “I don’t know, but I aim to learn, and find out!” Work on your approachability, and improve your listening skills. Self-protective walls will come down and people will openly tell you what they need to learn too.

3. Evangelize and celebrate continual learning. Don’t just say learning is valued, prove it. Demonstrate how learning starts with ‘not knowing’ as a highly desirable open-mindedness, a potential growth capacity eagerly waiting to be explored. Fill the workplace with easily accessible resources (remember that people are resources too).

4. Equip people with both the armor and aloha of professionalism. Work on this critical knowledge: What is it to be an expert in one’s position, and how does that happen? How do you handle yourself, and how do you handle the customer when you’re at the in-between place of still learning your expertise?

5. Get rid of ALL assumptions and seek clarity and intention. Mentor a workplace culture where people are constantly asking clarifying questions to be sure they are working on the right thing at the right time, and for the right reason. Graduate to “Why?” questions which will herald in reinvention and fresh ideas.

Go ahead, you can say it: “I don’t know.”

Now we’re getting somewhere!

Let’s talk story; I’d love to hear from you.

My mana‘o [The Backstory of this posting]
Each Thursday I write a management posting for Say “Alaka‘i” at The Honolulu Advertiser. The edition here on Talking Story is revised with internally directed links, and I can take a few more editorial liberties. One person — managers — will do both things; manage and lead. They are action verbs! Exploring them as separate postings helps us dig deep and get to the good stuff.

Photo Credits: “Expert” and “Expert (Outtakes)” by Pete Prodoehl on Flickr